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Students earn full rides to Saint Vincent College

January 16, 2018 GMT

Ligonier Valley High School seniors Andrew R. Klein and Wade Rashilla plan to apply their skills in calculus in two fields — physics and accounting, respectively.

In addition to calculus homework, the pair have something else in common. Both will attend Saint Vincent College with all four years of their tuition covered by a Wimmer Scholarship.

Called to their school’s guidance office Monday morning, the Ligonier teens were greeted by their parents and by the college’s dean of admission, Steve Neitz, who surprised the students with the news of their awards. Klein will receive more than $178,000, including room and board, for placing first on a written exam administered in November to 257 area high school students who vied for one of four Wimmer scholarships.

Rashilla, who placed second, will receive an award of more than $134,000 — as will Alan J. Lazar, a senior at Hempfield Area Senior High, and Christopher W. Risnear, a senior at Penn-Trafford High School.

“It was a very big surprise. I didn’t anticipate it whatsoever,” Klein said after learning of his top award. “It means that there’s a lot less stress over financial concerns of college and, hopefully, that we can just sleep a little better at night knowing we’re not going to worry about loans, interest rates or any of that stuff.”

Rashilla was floored by the good news. “I was not expecting it because, taking the test, after I finished it, I was, ‘Wow, that was difficult.’ I’m incredibly surprised, and I’m very happy,” he said.

It’s the first time in the scholarship program’s 37 years that two students from the same high school have won awards.

“It’s really unprecedented to have both the quality of applicants from one school but also having one and two on the exam,” Neitz said. “The exam is put together by the faculty of Saint Vincent. They create the exam and they score the exam, which includes essay as well as multiple choice questions.”

In addition to taking the exam, students must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average and 1080 SAT score to be considered for a Wimmer award. The scholarship, which recognizes high school students with outstanding academic abilities, is named for Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, who founded the Unity campus in 1846 as the first Benedictine college in the United States.

Lazar, also received a four-year, full-tuition scholarship valued at over $134,000.

The Hempfield Area High School senior said he’s “more relieved than surprised” at receiving the award, given that he typically does not start his day with a trip to the principal’s office.

“Whatever he decides to do, he’s going to be really great at it,” said Principal Kathleen Charlton, describing Lazar as a brilliant student and a quick learner who is enthusiastic about anything he pursues. “He’s a natural sponge. He just soaks up knowledge.”

Risnear, 18, represented Penn-Trafford in the scholarship competition.

“Hopefully, this helps with your college decision,” said Neitz.

“It does,” Risnear said, flashing a big smile.

Flanked by his parents, the varsity wrestler soaked in the news Monday as he juggled an oversized check, balloons and a bouquet of flowers.

“I’m pretty surprised. I thought I did pretty terrible on the test, so I guess it made it all the sweeter,” he said. “It shows me that my hard work does pay off, and it definitely influences my decision where to go.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news. Staff writers Jamie Martines and Stephen Huba contributed.